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Coronavirus: Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jail protest lack of protection against virus

One veteran detainee set an administrative facility on fire
Palestinians, wearing protective masks amid fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus, take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, 16 March (AFP)

Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli prison of Nafha protested on Wednesday over fears of a coronavirus spread and the absence of Israeli Prison Service (IPS) health measures to protect them from the pandemic, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said.

Ayman al-Sharabati, a veteran prisoner known as "The Citizen", burned one of the administrative facilities inside the notorious desert prison of Nafha, south of Israel, causing damage to official documents, and equipment in the yard.

The IPS transferred Sharabati, who is serving a 22-year sentence, to solitary confinement.

There are 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 400 detained in Nafha, according to the Addameer rights group.

Addameer reported that there are four Palestinian prisoners suspected of contracted coronavirus in the Ramleh Prison Clinic.

The organisation's lawyer, Samer Semaan, said the infected detainees have not been formally tested for Covid-19, and their temperature is only being taken twice a day. They have been isolated in separate rooms, he said.

Anxiety

Haneen Sharabati, Ayman’s daughter, told Middle East Eye that the family was in shock upon hearing the news about her father in the morning.

“We cried from fear and anxiety after reading the local news,” Haneen said.

Ayman is a 52-year-old father of four. He was convicted for killing an Israeli settler and wounding another in the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, and for being a member of the Fatah movement.

'We miss him a lot, and we do not wish to lose him while he is in the prison'

- daughter of prisoner Ayman Sharabati 

“We miss him a lot, and we do not wish to lose him while he is in the prison," Haneen said.

"They moved him to solitary confinement, meaning that his prison condition will be harsher and we will not hear his news or visit him."

In an open letter published on Wednesday titled “Rescue us from coronavirus, so our prisons do turn into graves,” 35 Palestinian prisoners suffering from critical illness said: “We don't hear nor see any serious arrangements to answer our questions: what if coronavirus spreads in the prisons? What are the practical measures that will be taken in a human way by the Israel Prison Service?”

The letter added that there are hundreds of prisoners suffering from health issues, including asthma, heart diseases, blood pressure, diabetes and cancers.

More than 2,000 cases of infection and five deaths have been reported in Israel, and around 60 cases in the occupied West Bank.